How to Upgrade WordPress Themes Without Anyone Knowing

blog without anybody knowing. Don’t put it live until it’s ready!

One of the worst things about WordPress is that when you hack your blog, or your theme, or try a new plugin or theme you’re doing it “live”. In other words – everybody sees it. So if you want to try a new theme you have to switch them live while visitor are going to your posts and pages. I hate that. I’ve heard of guys keeping a “test” version of WordPress installed in another folder just to test new themes and hacks – and that’s not only more effort than I’m willing to do, it’s just a bit ridiculous.

I have a one web site where the WordPress theme was causing too many problems, it was old, and not worth hacking and fixing anymore. I have too many web sites and way too much to do to create a new theme from scratch. So I went theme shopping, and within 10 minutes I found one that really impressed me. You’d be amazed what you can find just Googling “WordPress themes”.

Next, I downloaded the free open source Theme Test Drive WordPress theme plugin WordPress Plugin, and installed and enabled it. This plugin allows you to set a theme for your entire blog that only the administrator will see. In other words, when you are logged into your WordPress dashboard as the admin account, you can test any post or page in your site under a theme and nobody will be the wiser. You can hack the test theme pages and nobody on your site using your normal theme will see what you are testing. Of course, if you make changes to widgets or plugins, everyone will see them on both the public and test themes. Once you enable the plugin all you have to do is go do “Presentation -> Theme Test Drive” in your WP Dashboard and enable the theme you want to test.

So in another browser window I went to my dashboard, and one by one enabled and tested 6 new WordPress themes I had uploaded to the server. I found and settled on one that I really liked. Luckily in this web site I use theme widgets, so everything updated beautifully because I didn’t need to make any changes to the sidebar. Now, all I’m missing are any customizations I made to my current theme pages manually by adding code. So I looked at the code for my Main Index, Single Post, Archive, Comments, etc., to see what I’ve added over time to make a list.

It turns out I added quite a few things, but they’re easy to put into the new template:

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